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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Home Is Where the Hope Is

Home is not where you live but where they understand you. ~ Christian Morgenstern


I've been thinking about writing this post for a while, ever since I read Relyn's Thinking of Home a couple of weeks ago, and since then too, reading Julochka's recent post on having her family come to visit her in Denmark.

When I read Relyn's loving description of her teenage years growing up in the South, in the mountains of Tennessee and other states, the country sounds, the people, for a moment I could see her memories as if they were my own, and realized I don't have that sort of connection to the place I grew up in. It made me wistfully sad, like I had missed out on something I could not put my finger on, but it was there all the same.

It's not that I wasn't raised in a nice home, with parents who loved me and took good care of me, and a sister I adored, but that the place itself--San Jose--was flat and featureless. People did not register with me, nor I with them. I don't know if that's true or not, but it's the impression I walked away with. Is that how suburbs are?

Everyone there came from everywhere else but still never seemed to come together as a community. It's a city that had, and still has, in my opinion, no sense of self. No sense of place. No roots. I mean, I'm sure it does. Every place has a history but San Jose's history wasn't mine.


And then I realized that in my whole entire life, in all these years, I finally feel at home...here. In San Francisco. It's hard to describe, but it feels like I've come home even though I never lived here before this time.

And again, it's even not this particular home I live in, although I love my neighborhood and my flat, with its crazy piles of books and dvds and hats and shoes and laughs and The Boy with his dimple. It's this place. It's this city.

I can walk down the block to get groceries from the little market owned by five brothers from Jordan. They're not friendly at first meeting, but when they've seen you once or twice, they warm up to you and chat. Or when I go to the nail salon owned by the Vietnamese cousins, and spend an extra hour there just catching up on recent events. But it's not just my neighborhood. Almost anywhere in the city, I feel welcomed or at least noticed in some way, at some point.

San Francisco, for all of its trying to be a city, feels like a constellation of those small towns that Relyn described, connected by a commonality that comes from this place, this here and this now.


I think part of the reason that this post finally came together with thoughts was because of the photos in this post that I took last week in the Lower Haight.

I was walking all over, looking up and down and all around for things to take photos of. I encountered the most interesting street art. And then when I started consciously looking for it, I found even more. It was like an Easter egg hunt.

First I found this in a doorway:

And then this interesting little creature perched on the side of a house:

The art intrigued me so much. I want to find the artist behind this work and thank him/her for leaving little bits of beauty around the place.

Can you read this?

It says, "Life is not measured by the breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away."

And then on another block, I found this painting, obviously by the same artist:

This piece says, "The mind has exactly the same power as the hands; not merly [sic] to grasp the world but to change it."


I like living in a place where you can walk past little bits of colorful hope, just left out for you by someone you may never meet, to find and smile and wonder about.

It's almost like having a second childhood here. Having a home that I wouldn't have known to imagine but just fell into, happily.


"San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality" ~ Paul Kantner, Jefferson Airplane


julochka September 10, 2008 at 12:53 AM  

great post. i'll have to muse on home on the plane and perhaps write something tonight when i reach oslo. it's a question that's been on my mind of late as well. thank you, as always, for the inspiration! :-)

tangocherie September 10, 2008 at 3:51 AM  

When I left L.A. in 2001 with Phoebe the Cat and moved to Mexico, and then moved with her to Buenos Aires, I wrote a blog post, Home is Where the Cat Is.

Unfortunately after 13 years and 3 countries, Phoebe died last month.
But last night Mirasol came to live with me. So for me, once again home is where the cat is.

willow September 10, 2008 at 5:21 AM  

This was a lovely, lovely post! I know exactly what you mean. So many of use are "misplaced" souls. Glad you've found your spot! :)

And by the way, I've TAGGED you. (but only if you would like to play) Come on over for the details. :D

Limerick Tango September 10, 2008 at 5:24 AM  

I haven't been myself of late
I haven't slept for several days
But coming home I feel like I
Designed these buildings I walk by

You know you drive me up the wall
I need to see your face that's all
You little sod, I love your eyes
Be everything to me tonight
Be everything to me tonight

I never know what I want but I know when I'm low that I
I need to be in the town where they know what I'm like and don't mind

Elbow, Station Approach, Leaders of the Free World, 2005

Elizabeth September 10, 2008 at 10:59 AM  

We must be on the same channel. I have been thinking a lot about the concept of home. What a lovely post TB. You are doing such great work.

Mary-Laure September 10, 2008 at 11:50 AM  

Very moving post.
Home is really a concept that's hard to grasp... With all the traveling I've done as a child, and our moving to different countries so often, I came to think of "home" as anywhere were I can get together with my parents and my sister, anywhere in the world.

Anonymous September 10, 2008 at 1:09 PM  

What a great post tangobaby... I especially love the photos of the street artist who left the written messages. I understand exactly where you're coming from.... I feel that my heart also belongs elsewhere and I am yet to find the place that my heart tells me is home. I'm so happy that you've been able to find where your heart belongs :-)

karey m. September 10, 2008 at 9:24 PM  

had to kirtsy this beautiful piece of writing...and heart.


karey m. September 10, 2008 at 9:24 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marina September 11, 2008 at 12:04 AM  

Thank you for this post. Although I live thousand and thousand miles from you (Croatia, Europe) I found myself in this post. I finally feel like at home.

Christina September 11, 2008 at 7:28 AM  

It's a funny thing- as I read this post, it was though I was homesick, homesick for a place I have never been.

Wonderful, thought provoking pics.

; )

tangobaby September 11, 2008 at 4:37 PM  

Hi all,

I love reading your comments here on this post, and am so touched by the camaraderie here.

And welcome to all of you Kirtsy readers, via the lovely Karey M!

Hi julockha,

I just read your post that links here, and I love your outlook on what it means to have a home, and that you're so adventurous and curious and willing to explore. You're my inspiration, too!

Hi tangocherie,

I am so sorry to read about Phoebe. I can imagine what a wonderful companion she must have been. But now Mirasol will continue the tradition and that's just wonderful.

I will be sure to read your post! I love cats.

Hi willow,

I guess "misplaced" is an accurate description...I think that sense of looking for something and not finding a true fit is what you call it.

I am thinking about how to respond to your meme and thank you for thinking of me. I'm sure I'll have something quirky for you soon.


Hi limerick tango,

Can I tell you how much I've enjoyed this poem? I've read it several times in a row and

"But coming home I feel like I
Designed these buildings I walk by" is just captivating me. That's how I feel!

I love that. Thank you so much for sharing those words with us.

Hi elizabeth,

I wonder what is in the air that is inspiring such thoughts around the world? Perhaps we'll be seeing some writing from you to add to the discussion?

I'm glad you liked what I wrote.

Hi mary-laure,

Just reading about your childhood and all of the experiences you've had, and the wonderful compassionate woman you've become leaves me no doubt that your home is the truest one of all.

Hi carol,

If I find more art like that, I will be sure to share it with you. I'll keep looking.

I think you need to be some place near water...maybe a pretty bridge or two...maybe a place like here? I hope you find that place someday soon.

Hi karey m.!

Thank you so much, and I so appreciate the shout out. Truly, it's wonderful.

Hi marina,

Thank you and welcome to my blog. I'm glad you found your way here and that we share a common feeling. Distance is no barrier in the blog world.


Hi christina,

I think there are so many things here that would delight you. I will try to share as much as I can so this can be your town too. Until you can see it for yourself!



Relyn September 11, 2008 at 6:20 PM  

Of course I love this post.

I love all the ways there are to find a home. It gives me chills when I hear about people who have found the place where they fit. People who have discovered their heart's home. Growing up, I was privileged to live all over the world and I know that you can make a home and a life in the oddest circumstances. But, oh! When your heart finds its home.

Anonymous September 12, 2008 at 6:57 AM  

oh i cant wait to get caught up reading your blog tangobaby! i just love your site. this is a beautiful piece of art. i love the hope. you are definetly lucky to be in a placelike san fran.

paris parfait September 14, 2008 at 7:01 AM  

A beautiful ode to my favourite American city. And your photos are wonderfully evocative of the city's diversity and philosophy. xoxox

robin bird September 18, 2008 at 10:08 AM  

A beautiful ode to my favourite American city. And your photos are wonderfully evocative of the city's diversity and philosophy. xoxox
well tara perfectly captured my intellecual sentiment with this comment.

my other response has to do with seeing into your heart and knowing more about you. i like finding a little breadcrumb trail to the heart of who my friends really are. you want/need a sense of place and belonging and have found it. that is what i found in this post.

and the photos? great!

robin bird September 18, 2008 at 10:10 AM  

oh dang! i forgot to say this... that is the gate print that you gifted me with and i am glad it is included in this post where i get to feel more connected to you!

Limerick Tango September 27, 2008 at 3:37 PM  

It's the lyrics to the opening track, Station Approach, of the Mercury music award winning band Elbow's third album Leaders of the Free World. You can see them play live here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXcXWFx7hOY